Before you get started, wait a little while and watch the intro! It's different depending on the version you're playing.
All versions start with this shot though, of the Bonanza Bros. in front of their own Wanted poster.
Although... Only $100? That's not really that much, is it? That's gotta sting.
I do love this opening shot though- the boys sliding into frame, the static of the TV reflected in their sunglasses... It's so cool!
(Sadly, I did try and animate it, but it uses a lot of flashing and flickering so hopefully this static image gets the point across).
And of course, how can you resist an opening line like "I've got a job for you that's right up your alley", truly?
The arcade version- both English and Japanese, has the mysterious man on the TV explain they're gonna clean up Badville by 'collecting evidence'.
Counterfeiters, thieving bankers, cheating casino operators... Badville sounds like a nice place.
Time for the boys to get busy!
Some revisions of the Mega Drive game reuse this arcade version's plot (ROMs marked (JE) and forced into USA / EU mode), albeit truncated.
Others (ROMs marked (U)) use a new plot, with a businessman asking for help because his establishments keep getting robbed.
Hey, at least the Bonanzas are gonna get paid well at the end.
And all versions of the intro end with...
(Don't you worry, true Bonanza-heads, all the different versions of the plot will be explained later!)
After coining up in the arcade version, you get the option to play an exclusive stage- the Training Stage.
I imagine this was included because for an arcade game, Bonanza Bros. isn't exactly pick-up-and-play, and the idea of playing stealthily, rather than going in guns blazing, might take a little getting used to. So, this straight line of a stage very gently introduces some of the most basic mechanics- opening doors (and as a bonus, showing you that you can swat enemies with 'em), moving between the background and foreground, leaning against pillars, and taking advantage of when enemies are looking the other way or taking a nap. If nothing else, Sega was a little forward-thinking here- the Training Stage can be safely skipped as you don't get any points for going through it, but it's still there as an option in case you're new or haven't played in a long time. There's commentary to be made about modern video game tutorials and instructions here, but since when does Gaming Hell play modern video games that don't involve virtual idols? Never. The answer is never. Probably.
Whether you take the Training Stage or not, the first real job for our boys is the Bank.
No grocery store raids for these boys- go big or go home, right off the bat!
As well as being a pretty simple stage, the Bank shows you how teamwork with a second player can make getting the treasure considerably quicker and with less chance of being spotted. After finding the first treasure and an only-slightly-alert guard at the entrance, the path splits between the lower path and stairs leading to the second floor. There's one treasure on each of these paths, and the one on the second floor is closer to the exit than the one on the lower route, so when playing solo you're best to go across the first floor, then turn back before the exit to grab the last treasure and book it. In co-op though, send one player up the stairs and you can get the job done nice and quickly! Because of the arrangement of enemies and rooms though, be sure to send the more experienced player up the stairs, the first floor is a smidge easier.
Being the first stage, it introduces you to the most basic guard types, the normal security guards and the shield guards. The behaviour of the normal guards can vary depending on where they are (if there's a window nearby they might look outside, for instance) but generally they'll patrol their small areas, looking left, right and into the foreground, reacting either if they see you, hear you, or hear other guards raising the alarm. The small red guards carry nightsticks and a whistle, so when you're spotted they'll blow the whistle and try to smack you- stun them to shut them up. The taller blue guards are much more dangerous though- they will shoot on sight, taking cover behind walls too. Hide yourself and take a shot at them when you can, engaging in a direct gunfight is generally a bad idea. As for the shield guards, they'll patrol around with a shield that protects them from one side- they'll only change which side is shielded when they turn around, so you have to be patient. The pale blue ones have nightsticks, and the grey ones have guns, and they don't bother raising an alarm for the most part either, so be careful.
Now, let's see the Mega Drive version, which renames the stage from the Bank to the Company. Hmm!
First, take a moment to see how it made it over to the system in terms of looks- that resolution reduction is pretty steep, and the smaller amount of colours means that the reliance on gradients in the arcade game had to be pared down. What you can't see here is the animation, which is less smooth across the board for the characters. Still, it tries its best to replicate the aesthetic of the game as best it can, so let's move on to what else has changed. The well-built guards have been swapped out for palette-swaps of the stout guards, but while they're still armed with guns they're slightly less dangerous- rather than shooting you immediately, they'll usually fire in the air to alert other nearby guards first, which does get them on your case but gives you precious seconds to get in position to retaliate. As for the stage design itself, the main change is that a fourth treasure has been added to the left of the second floor, so when playing solo you have to cover more of that floor by yourself- it's probably easiest to hop up the stairs, grab the newly-added treasure, then hop back down and beat the stage as you would in the arcade. Finally, probably to make it more obvious this place isn't a bank, the safe by the door has been replaced with an arcade cabinet! Definitely a positive change- money won't make you happy, but arcade games will.
Next up, Robo and Mobo class it up by visiting the Millionaire's Mansion. Eat the rich, and so on.
Quite a few new things get introduced here, so let's start with some of the new hazards. Clearly whatever millionaire lives here isn't concerned with keeping things tidy, as there's trash on the floor like a drink can and the classic banana peel. Bumble over any of these and your Bonanza Bro will comically slip up, move the trash across the floor ready for you to trip over again (the banana peel doesn't move much, the can goes much further), and alert any guards that happen to be nearby. If you go outside to the garden, there's even a rake to walk into for you to recreate one of the greatest animated comedy scenes of all time (and yes, the rake stays in place so you can walk into it repeatedly). Making your way up the left side of the mansion also leads to a zipline between the two buildings here, and taking it has Robo / Mobo slide gracefully down... To smash into the wall of the other building, landing flat on their faces. Beautiful. You're best taking the zipline anyway, which does mean you skip the garden between the two- there's more treasures on the left side of the stage, and the final treasure is in the same room as the exit stairs. Efficiency is the key to being a good burglar, make a note.
As for new enemies, you now have dogs, bomb-throwers and waiters to deal with. The dog only appears in the garden so you might not even see 'em, but as well as being a series of oddly-arranged orbs fitting with the game's aesthetic (who's the best set of orbs? You are, you're the best set of orbs! Have a doggy treat) they're much the same as the guards with melee weapons, but they'll also bark when they find you, like a good guard dog. There's also only one bomb-thrower, right at the end, but get used to these guys as they'll be showing up a lot. They're the only enemy that take more than one shot to stun, and when they spot you (which, for some reason, they will do even if they're not looking at you) they'll start lobbing difficult-to-avoid bombs, made worse by the fact your first encounter is in a cramped loft- if you approach from the zipline, you need to hide immediately by the stairs, then pump him full of lead (four shots to send him to sleep). Finally, the waiters are dotted around the house, and come in two flavours- the yellow ones comically throw their plates in the air in shock when they spot you, alerting everyone nearby, and the red ones will throw their plates at you, officially winning the 'Don't Be a Hero' award.
The Mega Drive version makes a lot of changes here, mostly removing stuff which has the side-effect of getting rid of one nice little detail. While the rake and the cans are still around, the banana skin is gone (replaced with another can), and the plate-throwing waiters and dogs aren't around anymore (don't worry, we'll be seeing them again later). There's another treasure added to the garage below the loft, but you're still best off tackling the left side of the house and making your way over to the garage treasure (or splitting up in co-op to cover both sides) but the treasures are now more generic. In particular, the treasure in the bedroom is just a briefcase of money, whereas in the arcade it was a set of jewellery stored in a chest of drawers by the bed- that's a really neat detail, those boys are audacious enough to steal the family jewels, that's sadly gone from this port. Don't worry though, they still crash through the wall like absolute fools, bless 'em.
Now time for some arcade-exclusive content, the Bonus Stage!
As police searchlights try to spot you, you have to grab all the money bags on screen before time's up.
Hide in alcoves to avoid detection, and jump between the platforms (you can jump much higher here) to grab the cash!
Get caught by the spotlights and the stage ends, but that'll never happen here- the Bonanza Bros. are too smart to get caught.
In any case, this bonus game (and subsequent ones) were taken out the Mega Drive port, but remnants of them still exist, we'll see that later.
The next job is the Casino. Strike it rich, boys!
This starts out promising- just a bomb-thrower who's conveniently behind the entrance, so you can slam the door into his face and take him out as you make it to the first hiding spot between the slot machines. The problem is that the first shield guard does not want to let you pass- he'll keep his shield in your direction except for a few brief moments after he walks towards you then turns around. It's a really brief window so the second he turns around, slug 'im! Get to the stairs quickly after that, you really don't want to continue down that corridor- three shield guards? Nah. You can then scoot back down the stairs where all you really have to deal with is the blue shield guard and some easy-to-dodge gun-slinging shield guys and grab the last treasure on the first floor. The second floor is more of a problem though- just a blue shield guard by the Roulette table, but the Poker and Blackjack tables are guarded by a bomb-thrower and a grey shield guy. Fortunately, the shield guy can't shoot over the table so take advantage of that for your approach. The house doesn't always win, it turns out.
Oh, we're not done once we make it to the roof though! The third floor introduces two new hazards, falling from a height and springs. Hop on the spring to get flung upwards (no need to press Jump at the same time or anything, you'll get the same amount of air-time regardless) to make your way across the roof. You'll be able to (just barely) jump over the first gap, but don't try that on the second- you'll miss the spring and land, Wile E. Coyote-style, on the hard concrete. Ouch. Luckily, you don't lose a life when this happens, although if you do it on later stages, you'll have to grab your treasures again. One advantage when you're being launched by the spring is that guards won't be able to spot you, somehow, so use that to your advantage and wait until the shield guard's turned around before going forward, especially before the exit stairs! You really don't want those last two enemies to spot you, they'll fire at you from across the gap!
(Also, if you're feeling nasty, at the start of this floor, shoot the green guard to send him flying off the edge! He'll be fine, I'm sure.)
Not much has changed for the Mega Drive version, with no new treasures added, but there's a couple of things here and there. For a start, that shield guard at the start no longer walks around- he just steps out from between the slot machines, looks around with his shield still in your direction, then heads back into his hidey hole. You'll have to just walk past him when he's not looking ahead of him, so good luck with that. Also, you can't jump across the first gap on the roof, so just rely on the springboard instead. However, they also added guardrails so you can't shoot the guard at the start of the third floor off the roof. Safety conscious, that's good to see. Guards still can't see you when you're on the spring though, that definitely hasn't changed. What this level does highlight is something that will be more apparent in later stages- there's not much in the way of multiple paths for co-op play. The only diversion you can really make is to go all the way across the hall on the first floor and, well, you really don't want to do that. We'll be seeing this problem more later, so stay tuned.
A little bit of Mega Drive-exclusive content here- a brief cutscene plays after a few stages. Here's the one for clearing the Casino out.
(The way the image flashes like it's on an old-timey projector is neat, but also makes it impractical for GIFfing, I hope you understand.)
This first one uses the starting jingle for the Bonus Stage from the arcade game for backing music- told you some of it made its way here!
The next job is the Mint. Get the cash, hot off the presses.
Now this is a little more like it, a giant building with four whole floors, conveniently split into two halves! You start at the bottom with the choice of entering the building on the left or the right, so if you're playing in co-op, you should know what to do- split up and cover one side of the building each, you can do more damage that way. If you're on your own though, you're best heading to the right first, as there's no treasure on the left side of the first floor. From there you'll have to cross over to the left side and down a flight of stairs to grab a treasure, then get back on track. There's only a couple of things notable about this particular map, but one of them is one of the funniest gimmicks in the game- a big ol' heavy press that you can operate with a lever to squash guards flat, Tom & Jerry-style. You can do this to your co-op partner too if you want, but hey, brothers work better together! Aside from that, most corridors have a few alcoves you can jump into to help evade guards, and the vast majority of enemies here are shield guards (there's one or two stout blue guards who raise the alarm before pursuing you) so be sure to use those presses and alcoves to your advantage! Oh, and watch out for that rake, some careless person left one on the bridge near the exit.
Surprisingly, the Mega Drive version is pretty much the same as the arcade one, presses and alcoves and all. This is, however, the first stage the dogs appear in this port, and it's also one of the more obvious examples of how the music has been shuffled around between ports. Stage 1 in both versions share the same music, Bonanza Elegy, but from there a lot of them get swapped around. In this particular stage, the arcade game uses the somewhat laid-back Bonanza Brothers Duty which doesn't seem to fit too well. Here, though, this music is switched out for Bonanza Suspense Theatre which is a perfect match if you ask me- this feels like the first really big job the boys take part in, and the slow build up of the song helps to emphasise that. Admittedly, the fact I played the Mega Drive version first may factor into that somewhat, but I still stand by Suspense Theatre being the better fit. Other than that, this is a pretty direct transplant from the arcade game, so we can probably move on.
More big heists await on the next page!